Requests to continue use of two interim parking lots west of Allianz Field and add a third new interim lot northwest of the soccer stadium go to the St. Paul City Council for a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20 at City Hall. The city council is being asked to keep all three lots in place for up to five years.
Weary of waiting for redevelopment and unhappy about what is seen as an unkept site, some community members are pushing back. Several said they are tired of unkempt property. Others noted that the two district councils routinely organize clean up and pick up trash in and around the development site.
And do interim uses become permanent uses? That is another red flag for some.
The Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) Development Committee sent its recommendation for denial to city officials Aug. 23. On Sept. 7, Union Park District Council (UPDC) will consider a land use committee recommendation that the city council deny the requests.
Developers’ representatives who have attended meetings with the district councils said the lots are not planned as permanent uses. Bill McGuire, owner of Minnesota United FC and one of the partners in redevelopment, has also said the long-term plan is to develop the lots and the rest of the site. They have also discussed better communication and the need to keep the areas picked up.
In its letter to city officials, HMC recounted the lots’ history, and the developers’ statements that parking was needed to have development occur. But there has been no development on the block.
“In fact, since 2018, almost all existing businesses on the site that served both neighborhoods have been eliminated. The superblock is one large parking lot surrounded by lopsided chain link fencing that collects trash. Clearly, dedicated parking space has not yielded the development the city was promised years ago. A request to codify parking lots is clearly not an indicator of imminent development,” the HMC letter stated.
Two parking areas west of the stadium were allowed by as interim uses in 2018, for a five-year period. That permit expires this year.
In 2018, UPDC and HMC asked for more time to review the requests and see if the lots could be designed in ways that allowed other uses. The city council rejected that request.
The new request is meant to accommodate a planned office building that would be at Spruce Tree and Asbury streets. Snelling Midway Redevelopment LLC indicated in its application that the long-term intent is to develop the lots for commercial use, as indicated in the site’s master plan.
The creation of interim surface parking for the stadium, which opened in 2019, was a point of debate five years ago. Some stadium neighbors feared being overrun with soccer fan parking and questioned whether the spaces would be enough to even make a dent in anticipated parking demand.
Others said that more needed to be done to encourage transit use, walking and biking to games, and sharing of existing ramps and lots.
On the Allianz Field superblock, development plans were slowed by changing market conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Union Park committee members Paul Bakke and Paul Toman said they’d advocate for a shorter time permit, possibly for two years and not five. But a motion for the shorter period failed.
“We gave them five years and they were basically incommunicado during that time . . . I don’t think they have earned our endorsement,” said UPDC committee member Scott Berger.
UPDC committee member Austin Wu expressed skepticism that the sites would ever be developed. “(Interim uses) just never change,” he said.
Interim use permits are allowed under state law if they meet specific conditions. Interim uses under state law must conform with a city’s zoning regulations, must have a set end date, cannot impose additional public costs if the property is restored in the future, and must follow any conditions the city sets.
The city, in turn, can put limits on an interim use permit, including on project design and the time the use is in place.